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School Lunch 101

Packing a healthy and delicious lunch that your kids will eat can be a challenge.  Even parents with years of lunch-packing success can fall into a rut.  There is nothing sadder for your child than opening a lunch box full of disappointment, packed with foods she does not like.  Here are some fresh ideas for creating a fun and flavorful lunch your kids will love!   

Follow the Plan:

Lunch is the perfect opportunity to include a variety of foods.  The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that each day school-aged kids eat: 4 ½-5 ½ serves of veggies and beans, 1 ½-2 serves of fruit, 4-7 serves of grain foods, 1 ½-2 ½ serves of lean protein, and 2-3 ½ serves of dairy

  • Fruits and veggies provide a wide variety of vital nutrients.  Avoid packing canned or processed fruits and veggies, sugary fruit leathers, and fruit snacks.  Instead, include dried fruits, fresh fruit slices or fresh veggie sticks.
  • Grain foods provide the energy your kids need to make it through the school day.  Choose whole grain or high-fiber breads, brown rice, or pasta.
  • Protein helps your kids grow and keeps them full throughout the day.  Try lean meats, canned tuna, or nuts.  
  • Dairy foods build strong bones and teeth.  Pack cheese, yoghurt or milk that are low in fat.

Build a Better Sandwich:

A yummy sandwich is often the foundation of a great school lunch!

  • Build the sandwich on your child’s favorite whole grain or high-fiber bread.  
  • Choose a filling like low-fat cheese, sliced lean meat, hummus, tuna salad, or egg salad.
  • Avoid turning the sandwich into a mushy mess.  Use mayonnaise, margarine, slices of cheese or cream cheese as a barrier to protect the bread from a moist filling.  Put wet ingredients, like tomato or pickles, in the middle of the sandwich.  Then surround them with other ingredients like meat or cheese.
  • To keep the sandwich fresh, pack it in a zip-top bag or plastic wrap.

Switch It Up:

Not every school lunch needs a sandwich.  Take a break and pack: 

  • A green salad topped with meat, cheese, or nuts.  To keep the salad greens crisp, put salsa or a low-fat dressing in the bottom of the salad container, then layer on salad greens, veggies, and other toppings.
  • Rice and beans
  • Pasta salad topped with cubed lean meat or low-fat cheese
  • Crackers and cheese, a natural nut butter, or hummus
  • A wrap filled with sliced meat and cheese or chicken salad
  • Leftovers from last night’s dinner like chicken nuggets or veggie lasagna.

Swap the Sides:

Potato chips, corn chips, and cookies are fun foods to pack every once in a while.  For everyday sides, try:

  • Veggie sticks or fruit slices with low-fat dip
  • Pretzels
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Dry cereal
  • Rice cakes 
  • A tub of yoghurt

Chill Out:

A healthy lunch is a cool lunch.  Use your freezer to ensure that your kid’s lunch stays at a safe temperature.  By lunch time, everything will be thawed and ready to eat.  

  • Stash a frozen gel pack in the lunch box.
  • Use frozen bread to make a sandwich.
  • Freeze an entire tuna salad or chicken salad sandwich
  • Drinks like water or milk can also be frozen and packed.

Quench Their Thirst:

Make sure your children stay hydrated throughout the day.

  • Always pack a bottle of water.
  • Avoid juices or soda.  They are full of sugar, not nutrients.

 One Final Tip: 

  • Only pack foods your kids like.  Lunch at school is not the time to experiment or encourage them to try new foods.



Image courtesy of Ambro /


Image courtesy of Ambro /